In this multiple part series, I will share with you some of my favorite tips and tricks for making your range experience enjoyable and safe. Over the next several weeks, I will share with you a different tip in each post. Your range is your place to practice your craft and hone your skills. While no ranges are exactly the same, there are some general rules and best practices that will keep you out of trouble and help you get the most value and enjoyment out of your time there. So you’ve got your lipstick on, guns packed, and are off to the range….now what? This week, we will cover your range wear.
If you are anything like me, what you wear to a place can be almost as important as what you do when you get there. Not just from a perspective of looking good, although that is very important, but from a comfort and appropriateness perspective as well. What you wear to the range is a big part of how much you enjoy or don’t enjoy your time there. There’s no dress code, per se, this ain’t Wimbledon, but there are some guidelines that will help you make the most of your time and energy.
What Clothing Should I Wear?
You’ll see some people at the range who are all decked out in the latest shooting gear. I confess sometimes I am that person. But it isn’t necessary. You just want to be covered in the right places and comfortable. I have several older pairs of well worn jeans I keep just for the range. I like to wear long pants if I can stand it but in the middle of summer I do often wear longer shorts. You want your thighs covered. It makes it easier to move when your skin isn’t sticking to everything from chairs to…well, itself.
Make sure the pants you choose are comfortable enough to allow you to move. You’ll likely be bending, kneeling, and crouching. You want to be able to do those things without discomfort or (let’s be honest) flashing crack. Perhaps just as bad as too tight is too loose. Sweat pants probably aren’t the best bet as you’ll be pulling them up all day and you need your hands for shooting. Something that fits well and is comfortable will be the winning choice.
The skin on my arms is temperamental. By that, I mean I burn on them at even the hint of sun. Sometimes, if I am not careful, I blister. I try to keep my arms covered, even when it is warm out. I like to wear long sleeved light weight shirts with both wicking properties and UV protection. Most of mine are like this one. If you can’t stand the full sleeve, there are 3/4 sleeve versions as well. You can often find these on sale in the Fall and I like to stock up.
It also never hurts to stuff a cheap rain jacket in your range bag, or in my case, next to the spare tire in your vehicle. If you go to all of the trouble to pack up and head out to the range you don’t want to have to turn back early. Because, if you are anything like me, being wet and cold can ruin your day (and possibly the day of everyone around you).
As with your pants, you’ll want a comfortable fitting but not too baggy top. I tend to wear more slender cut shirts to allow myself freedom of movement. I like it to be long enough to prevent me from tugging on the bottom. And, the most important thing is to choose something is is NOT lowcut. A high scoop or small vee will work fine. But you can’t risk having hot brass ejecting from yours or someone else’s firearm flying down your shirt. Take my word for it, I’ve gritted my teeth and dealt with the pain. It is unpleasant, as you can see from the plethora of videos illustrating this point on youtube. We’ll address why some men seem to think this kind of thing — and the often-simultaneously-occurring unsafe acts — are so funny in another post.
Do I Need Special Shoes?
Nope. Anything with decent traction that feels good will do just fine. I’m a fan of Nike Women’s FS Lite 2 sneakers as they are very light and flexible. They rinse easily if they get caked in mud.
You don’t need to buy anything if you have a comfy pair of sneakers or even hiking shoes. You want shoes that won’t slip on gravel or mud and preferably something with arch support. You’ll be standing most of the time, so you want that to be comfortable. Just don’t wear open toed shoes or flip-flops, please. This may seem like a no brainer but I see people with their toes out at the range all the time. Don’t be that person that yelps when hot brass hits their foot.
What Accessories Do I Need?
First, you need a hat. Proper headwear not only ensures the sun stays off your face but I find it also helps frame your shot. I like a good old fashioned baseball cap myself, but anything with a brim will work fine. I never shoot without a hat. No hat means sun in my eyes, which means squinting. Squinting brings wrinkles and I am currently at war with wrinkles. Even if you are 15 and wrinkles seem a lifetime away, wear a hat.
Mr. SiL and I also keep at least one shemagh in our range bag. We prefer the ones made by Combat Flip Flops, and next Tuesday I am dedicating an entire post to these versatile gems. For those who don’t know, a shemagh is a larger piece of cloth that can be used in many capacities. Please come back Tuesday to learn more.
If it is chilly, you might want to also bring some fingerless gloves. Some people can shoot in full gloves but I like to be able to feel the trigger. Especially when you are first starting to train, I think having your fingers free is helpful. If, like me, you are always freezing, bring HotHands to supplement.
You’ll also need Eyes and Ears… and not just the ones attached to your head. I’ll likely do a full post on how to choose eye and hearing protection but make sure you have both before you head out to the range. In the beginning any pair of safety glasses and some foam earplugs will work. As you shoot more, you’ll develop Opinions about what works best for you.
Aren’t You Missing Something? What do I wear on my face?
Lipstick, OF COURSE! Unless you hate lipstick, in which case I suppose you can skip it. But you should pack a lip balm (preferably with some SPF) to keep your pucker moisturized and protected from the sun. I love this one by Aquaphor (and so does my dermatologist).
If you are like me, you’ll have on everything from contour to eyeliner but it’s not necessary. What is necessary is sunscreen. This is another topic that will take up a full post but, for now, make sure it has at least SPF 30 and you use enough. A good rule of thumb is about a nickel sized portion for your face. Don’t count on the SPF in your foundation or moisturizer if you are using less than this amount.
Now you have clothes, shoes, accessories, safety gear, and sunscreen. You are ready to go!
In two weeks, we will continue the series with a post about how to deal with special challenges at the range.